Chris Gwaltney

ChrisChris Gwaltney is ABC’s Category Manager for premium cigars and craft beer. Besides being a TU Certified Tobacconist and Cicerone Beer Server, he’s also a bit of a momma’s boy. “I come from a very wonderful mother. Actually, I was born in a small town in extreme South Georgia called Cairo. It is pronounced KAY-RO. For some reason the folks in Egypt don’t say it right, which has caused lots of grief for my kin folk over the years.” Although some tobacco was grown in his county, he isn’t sure that growing up in a small farm community made a huge impact on his passion for cigars. “Whenever I smoke a cigar it is a time for relaxation. Naturally my thoughts take me back to the simpler times, which involve memories of my childhood spent hunting and fishing on my grandmother’s farm.”

It seems that most cigar aficionados are chasing the next relevant birthplace. When asked where he thinks the next great smoke will hail from, he said, “If I knew where the next great smoke or tobacco was coming from I would cash in my 401K, head down there and start planting tobacco.” Not only is it very hard to tell where it will come from, he said, but it’s also kind of irrelevant. “The more important factor is the tobacco. We’ve seen a huge rise recently in popularity of Ecuadorian tobacco. The Ecuadorian Connecticut Seed was the first to gain popularity, mostly due to its wonderful value. Last year when I was in Nicaragua, I saw a lot of Ecuadorian Habano being used as wrapper. We have also seen more use out of non-traditional cigar tobacco made right here in the United States. If the Cuban Embargo is lifted then I could see some great things coming from their tobacco.” The thing that excites Chris the most about the possibility of Cuba restrictions being eased isn’t having access to their cigars but rather their tobacco. “Oh how I would love to blend Vuelta Abajo filler with Esteli Nicaragua filler and see just how much bang I could get in a stick.”

Chris makes it obvious that a world without cigars would be a world that he wouldn’t want to live in. “If heaven didn’t have cigars, I would have a tough choice to make.”

We asked Chris to describe a cigar to an alien. His response proved his adoration for smokes: “I would tell him to think about all the fun stuff he did the night before he strapped himself inside a tin can for his month-long voyage to earth. I would then tell him to imagine that I have taken all of those things, rolled them into a stick of tobacco delight, and that he can now smoke and enjoy it for the next two hours. I’d tell him to find a recliner, stretch out his skinny green legs and puff away. A glass of Pappy Van Winkle added into the mix and there would be peace in the universe forever.”

You can reach Chris at chrisg@abcfws.com; more importantly, you can follow him on Twitter @abccigarchris.

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